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US firms like Honeywell and Boeing, professors back India on patent regime

Source : Economic Times
Mar 19, 2014

NEW DELHI: Leading US companies such as Honeywell and Boeing, and professors of US universities have backed India before the US Trade Representative (USTR) that is currently assessing the country's intellectual property and patents regime. If the USTR feels the regime for protection of innovation, patents and intellectual property has deteriorated, it could categorise India as a 'priority foreign country', inviting trade sanctions from the US.

 

Countries that do better on these counts are put on the 'priority country' list in the Special 301 report of the USTR. The backing from within the US could help strengthen India's case, which has maintained that its laws and policy are compliant with the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"India's IPR framework was one of the key enablers in the establishment of Honeywell's engineering and technology presence," Honeywell International, which has a presence in India in sectors such as aerospace and automation, said in its submission. Boeing said that India's legal framework was adequate to protect IP with no known cases of IP violation.

"Indian IPR laws are comparable to IPR regulations in developed countries as India is signatory to all major conventions and treaties on this subject," it said. The USTR could impose higher duties or other restrictions on import of goods and services into the country for a certain period of time if India gets into the priority foreign country list. That would hurt as the US accounts for India's 12 per cent of exports.

The US India Business Council has also strongly recommended against India being designated as a priority foreign country. "No compulsory licences (CLs) were issued in India in 2013. Only one patent denial of significant note occurred in 2013, but this was by court order of India's Supreme Court, not its government," wrote council president Ron Somers.

The compulsory licence was issued in March 2012 on Bayer's Nexavar, a liver and kidney cancer drug, to generic drugmaker Natco Pharma. Such licences are awarded under the Indian Patents Act if it can be proven that drugs made by patentholders are too costly and out of reach of people who need them.

Professor Srividhya Ragavan (University of Oklahoma College of Law), Brook Baker (School of Law, Northeastern University) and Sean Flynn (American University, Washington College of Law) also submitted a statement in favour of India. Knowledge Ecology International, a non-profit organisation that works in the knowledge sector, pointed out that the US and Europe do more compulsory licensing of patents than India.

Welcome boost for India

It is welcome that there are some multinational companies to speak up for the soundness of India's intellectual property regime as well, even as pharma companies continue with their lobbying against India. India's basic patent law is sound, and there is no need to be defensive on this at all.

However, India will help its cause by speeding up the judicial proceedings in some vital patent disputes and by showing more restraint in the use of compulsory licensing. While India has, so far, issued just one compulsory licence, the ground on which it was issued was shaky. It will help to avoid such a development.


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